This was the week Nick Clegg would most definitely wish to forget. From his litany of gaffes at PMQs to the disastrous Liberal Democrat opinion poll results, the recess can't come soon enough for the deputy prime minister.
The Week in Politics
• This was the week Nick Clegg would most definitely wish to forget. From his litany of gaffes at PMQs to the disastrous Liberal Democrat opinion poll results, the recess can’t come soon enough for the deputy prime minister.
On Wednesday, he was pilloried for claiming he was the first Liberal to appear at PMQs since 1922, which, as Guido points out, “is odd given that PMQs was established in 1961”; for saying the Iraq war was illegal, resulting in a Downing Street slap down; for giving mixed messages on the Afghanistan withdrawal date; and for the Sheffield Forgemasters debacle.
Next Left observed that:
“There has been an on-going debate about how influential Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrats, is over the policy of his Coalition government. Downing Street would now appear to have resolved the issue, in making clear that nobody should take any particular notice of anything Nick Clegg says…
“Nick Clegg was ‘expressing a personal view’, when he declared that the Iraq war was “illegal”. He was not speaking for the government when taking Prime Minister’s Questions today, as Deputy Prime Minister. So what’s the point?
“Next time David Cameron is unavailable, can’t we just cut to the chase and have Andy Coulson deputise instead. After all, it seems that he is equipped to speak for the government. And poor Nick Clegg is not.”
As for the polls? Well, as Left Foot Forward reported on Tuesday and Wednesday, Lib Dem support is in free fall, with the Lib Dem vote swinging to Labour in Tory marginals – while the party slumped to 13 per cent in a YouGov tracker poll midweek, the lowest record by the Lib Dems under Clegg’s leadership.
• The Labour leadership race cranked up a gear this week, with our predictions from our model, published on Tuesday, sparking much heated debate – following Will’s conclusion that Ed Miliband was the narrow favourite, thanks to the impact of second preferences. Douglas Alexander, David Miliband’s campaign co-chair, told a bloggers’ briefing yesterday that David was in fact winning on second preferences.
Alexander cited anecdotal evidence that David was winning a series of Constituency Labour Party nominations – including those where second preferences were decisive; he has a lead over his brother of 110 CLPs to 79 CLPs although some contests have been fought on a winner-takes-all ballot rather than using the transferable votes system set out in the rules.
Left Foot Forward is asking anybody with information about their local CLP nomination to tweet them using the #CLPVote hashtag. We are interested in constituency name, candidate nominated, methodology (ie first-past-the-post or transferable voting), and scores in the 1st round of voting (ie before any candidates were knocked out). The information will be available to view in a google doc and used to guide our leadership model.
Elsewhere, Ed Balls came out fighing at the start of the week, writing in Monday’s Mirror:
“Today’s [Save Our Schools] protest isn’t about botched lists full of errors. It’s about savage cuts which are unfair, unnecessary and will add to unemployment. They’re unfair – because they’ll condemn hundreds of thousands of children to second-class facilities…
“They’ll add to unemployment – because tens of thousands of jobs will be put at risk, as work is taken away from builders, electricians and plumbers. When we need to support jobs to secure economic recovery this is madness. There is an alternative – a slower, steadier, fairer deficit reduction plan, which does not put jobs, growth or front line services at risk. This is more likely to succeed and have credibility with the markets too.”
• The main international story was the continued wrangle over the al-Megrahi case. Late last night, the US Senate foreign affairs committee summoned Scottish justice secretary Kenny MacAskill, former UK justice secretary Jack Straw, BP chief executive Tony Hayward, BP special adviser Sir Mark Allen and Andrew Fraser, health and care director of the Scottish Prison Service to appear before them.
MacAskill has refused the request, prompting Scottish Labour to accuse him of “running a mile”, describing the Senate’s action as “a perfectly legitimate request”. Straw, meanwhile, has said that he will consult Gordon Brown and the foreign office over whether he will appear. Earlier this week, Left Foot Forward reported that the case is placing great strain on Westminster/Holyrood relations, following the prime minister’s comments on the issue on his visit to Washington.
Progressive of the week
Liberal Democrat deputy leader and the party’s most senior non-Minister Simon Hughes, who this week said that there is “absolutely no reason” why there shouldn’t be gay marriage, in an interview for Yoosk.com – and reported by Left Foot Forward. He said: “I see absolutely no reason why we shouldn’t be able to support what Nick Clegg has said, which is that it will be appropriate in Britain in 2010/11 for there to be the ability to have civil marriage for straight people and gay people, equally.”
Regressive of the week
Climate denier Anthony Watts, ranked as the number one most read “science” blog in the world according to Wikio, who tweeted links to BNP propaganda – then tried to cover his tracks – but not before Left Foot Forward’s Joss Garman found out, and exposed on this blog. Not that this kind of thing is anything new. Fellow climate denier Richard North once wrote: “There are a lot of Kermits to the west of Dover … to say nothing of the Dagos and sundry others. These are to be trusted?”
Evidence of the week
Today’s GDP figures, which rose 1.1 per cent in the second quarter of 2010 – vindicating Labour’s approach to supporting the recovery, as reported by Left Foot Forward earlier. Shadow Chancellor Alistair Darling said the figures showed that Labour’s policy of economic stimulus rather than cuts was right, while Shadow chief secretary Liam Byrne pointed out that Labour managed the recovery “in a way that kept unemployment down”, and David Miliband, writing on Left Foot Forward in the last couple of hours, said the figures suggest “Labour’s action to get the economy back on its feet were working”.
What’s trending on Twitter
According to our friends at Tweetminster, the top stories this week are:
• School reform is still being widely debated; as is
• Nick Clegg’s disastrous performance at PMQs;
• The GDP figures;
• The revoking of Nazi Nick Griffin’s invite to Buckingham Palace;
• The graduate tax;
• Justice minister Crispin Blunt’s remarks on prisons; and
• The Obama-Cameron meeting, with chatter focusing on the al-Megrahi/Lockerbie/BP story.
The twitterverse rejoiced in the humiliation of Nazi Nick Griffin yesterday – refused entry to Buckingham Palace, all dressed up with nowhere to go… :P:
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